Developer: Massive Miniteam
Genre(s): Action, Platformer, Coop
Platform: Reviewed on Steam (also available on Stadia, Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4)
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 04/08/2020
A code was provided for review purposes
In the Slimelight
When a giant ball of purple slime floods their city, a group of misfit monsters set out to take back what’s theirs. Does this game ooze charm, or is it not worth spit?
You Win Some, You Ooze Some
Spitlings is the sort of game I would never expect myself to buy, much less enjoy. So it was something of a surprise to find that it’s actually rather good.
The concept is simple – you shoot all the enemy blobs in a stage while avoiding damage. Getting hit by any of the enemies or sharp objects will immediately kill you. If you’re playing with up to three friends, this becomes even more risky. If anyone gets hit, everyone has to restart the stage.
When I read this in the product description, I was apprehensive. Was this going to be a consistently frustrating experience that would make me tear out what little hair I have left?
Funnily enough, no. The strict penalty for dying is mitigated by the fact that you don’t have limited lives, and each stage is generally under a minute long. Restarting is also pretty much instant, so you don’t have to sit through a lengthy loading screen each time.
This means that dying doesn’t really interrupt the pace at all. You’re straight back into the action so you can take another shot. While the action can be overwhelming at times, it rarely felt unfair.
You play as one of the spitlings, slightly disturbing creatures that (with a few exceptions) fire their teeth at enemies. You can shoot up or down, jump, and fly by shooting down repeatedly. The enemy blobs bounce around stages, so you have to carefully position yourself above or below them in order to shoot them.
Each stage is fairly small, keeping the action focused in one place so everyone can see what’s going on. Couch co-op is one of the game’s main features, so this is just as well. Unlike in some shared-screen games like Dungeon Siege III, we never got stuck in situations where we’d take hits because we were trying to move the camera in two directions.
As you progress through the game, you have the option to unlock bonus stages on each floor. These are generally a few steps in difficulty above the other stages. One of these was perhaps the only example of a level where it felt slow and frustrating, though we had been playing it for roughly three hours by that point.
Thanks to the divide between the regular and bonus stages, this does mean you can play the game at a nice pace. The nastier tricks are almost exclusively in the bonus stages, so you can cruise through the regular levels if you’re after a smoother experience.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Spitlings very much encourages coop play and it does so very well. I was playing on Steam, and grabbed people in via the Remote Play feature. There are no extra features like levelling characters or spending points on talents, so bringing new people in was no issue.
I played it with four different people at different times and we had a blast. Perhaps I just played with nice people, but even though we died plenty of times over the afternoon, everyone stayed in good spirits.
Well, except for that one stage I mentioned before, but even then it was more weary resignation than anger that led us to stop there for the afternoon.
If you like frantic multiplayer games but find Overcooked a bit overwhelming (check our review here), this might be the game for you.
World of Goo
As for the art and sound direction, Spitlings creates a quirky yet somewhat unsettling world populated by some bizarre monsters. Each of the spitlings is a monster of some sort, and did I mention that most of them shoot teeth as their ammunition?
The story is presented through comic book panels, and some of the images are a sight to behold. The actual gameplay graphics are a bit more minimalist, opting for simple clarity over the disturbing detail of the cutscenes. This is just as well, given how busy the screen gets in some stages.
While I generally liked the soundtrack, some of the stage themes can get a bit repetitive. Since the game overall is fast-paced, encouraging you to rush through levels, the tracks are generally not that long. However, this can become an issue in bonus stages where you get stuck for extended periods of time.
It’s also worth noting that one of the main reasons I didn’t rage about deaths was that the spitlings make bizarre sounds when killed, and each one has its own unique personality. The weird green zombie/Frankenstein’s Monster spitling, in particular, kept our spirits up whenever it died and let out a strange moan.
Spit and Polished
Overall, Spitlings is a solid game and an even better coop one. Indeed, one of the people I played with specifically commented that he normally doesn’t go for this sort of game either, but actually had a good time with this one.
While the price tag might be a bit off-putting given its basic presentation, it’s definitely worth a try, especially if your connection can handle Remote Play.
I wasn’t expecting to like Spitlings but I’m glad to say that it was a surprise hit. If you’re looking for a way to spend a few afternoons with friends, then I wholly recommend it.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.